Global warming is once again in cover stories. There has been a lot of discussion on the deadly effect of this particular problem. This time a National Geographic report blames global warming for literally melting away the soft coral communities in tropical water. It is the bleaching effect that is accelerated by the global warming is to be blamed for this disaster. A recent Nat Geo investigation revealed.
Soft corals are biologically vulnerable to natural disturbances as they do not have any stony outer skeletons to leave behind when they die. They just grow alongside hard corals, with a bit of protection achieved from their harder counterparts. This implies they simply vanish with the environmental stresses. Speaking on this matter Dr. Hudi Benayahu, head of the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University said
I have observed sites before and after bleaching in Okinawa, Japan, and it was remarkable to see a massive disappearance of soft corals. You can’t imagine this was the same site. Just two years passed and the entire area was deserted, lifeless
Soft corals are common in Indo Pacific region. But till now we do not have enough documentation to know everything about their existing species. Scientists are in the process of making complete documentation on soft corals available throughout the world, but at the same time many species of the soft corals are still not discovered. Beneyahu and other experts are in speculation that if bleaching continues to intensify, entire soft coral community may become extinct even before they are discovered.
The bleaching cause is however the same for both category of corals. The change in water temperature or salinity can damage the mutual relationship between the corals and a particular alga named zooxanthellae that lives in their tissues. The termination of this relation causes the death of the coral and soon the colourful area becomes stark white. But for hard corals, the endoskeleton is damaged, but the exoskeleton remains, which can sometimes regenerate the coral. But for the soft corals, there is no exoskeleton, so they just get wiped up after a bleaching event.
Scientists are worried about the upcoming danger that can not be ignored at any cost. Extinction of soft corals will dramatically affect the local echo system and will after a chain reaction surely harm some species of local fishes or even in some greater possibilities, completely damage the echo system. Nick Polunin, a marine scientist at the U.K.’s Newcastle University said
When you lose one of those, then you could be on much more difficult ground… If we want to see reefs in the near future, we must remove all other disturbances such as over fishing, increased pressure from tourists, sewage, and so on
Time will say whether we will be able to control the bleaching effect of the Indo Pacific region and save the soft corals from extinction. There are possibilities, but utmost everything awareness should be created so that the people will be more conscious about the problem and take some step together to save the species, and ultimately save our planet.
Source: National Geographic News